'No chance' of TPP signing in Vietnam - Trade Minister David Parker

Trade Minister David Parker says there's "no chance" the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be signed in Vietnam, after Canada's no-show at a vital leaders' meeting derailed the latest round of talks.

Canada has since said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's failure to attend was down to a "misunderstanding about the schedule". It took the other nations by surprise, with leaders - including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - appearing to believe Canada had withdrawn from the negotiations completely.

Canadian officials say more work is needed to take TPP forward - especially around the auto sector and cultural protection. But if it fails to recover from its latest setback, Mr Parker isn't overly concerned.

"I don't want to overstate it - life goes on," he told The Nation's Lisa Owen overnight, saying without the US being involved, the TPP is a "much less significant" deal than it used to be.

"We were ready to sign, we would prefer it to have been concluded today, but the point I'm making is that we have a number of quality free trade agreements already in the world - and despite that, over the last 10 years of the last Government exports went down as a proportion of the economy. That proves free trade agreements aren't the be-all and end-all for exports.

"Important though they are, what's more important is that you invest your precious people, your human resources and financial capital in building points of competitive advantage to grow new exports of services and goods to the rest of the world. What's happened today doesn't change that."

Labour opposed the TPP when in Opposition. Mr Parker says vast improvements have been made to the text of the deal since the new Government was formed.

"We had five issues of concern… the first was that the Government had to be able to preserve land asset classes like housing, without being forced to leave them open to overseas buyers. We've actually fixed that since we came to Government. We found a solution to that.

"We wanted there to be fair market access to countries, which is another way of saying we needed decent tariff reductions in to the likes of Japan - we achieved that.

"We wanted the protection of Pharmac - the Pharmac model had been well-protected by the prior Government in their negotiations. We have made further improvements in respect of patent provisions, which would have been beneficial to New Zealand…

"A Treaty clause that was acceptable to the Waitangi Tribunal, that was signed off… we thought overall we've done a good job for New Zealand."

Mr Parker also said progress had been made on investor-state dispute clauses, which allow corporations to sue countries who pass laws seen as detrimental to their business.

"Eighty percent of the foreign direct investment into New Zealand from TPP-11 countries would not have been covered by the ISDS clauses [in the earlier text]. We've made some substantial progress."

He's not sure if further discussions will take place in Vietnam, will be held at a later date somewhere else, or cancelled altogether.

"It's not completely dead until it's dead."